THE MANIFESTATION OF GIFTS
The growth of life is different from the manifestation of the miraculous, supernatural gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. It is a real tragedy in today’s Christianity that many Christians consider the miraculous gifts the same as life. The donkey of the prophet Balaam that spoke in human language is a very good illustration to show that miraculous gifts are not something of life (Num. 22:28). What the donkey spoke was a genuine, real tongue. Many people today proclaim that they have spoken in tongues, but I doubt whether they have spoken in a genuine tongue. However, even if someone speaks in a genuine tongue, that still is not life.
First Corinthians deals not only with knowledge but also with gifts. Not only knowledge but gifts also are in contrast to Christ. Verses 22 and 23 of chapter 1 say, “Indeed Jews require signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness.” Signs and wonders are something miraculous and supernatural. We have to be careful in speaking about gifts, because this matter is very complicated. I must speak the truth to say that in all my Christian life I never saw a person who stressed speaking in tongues who was a genuinely spiritual person. It is hard for almost any brother or sister who insists on speaking in tongues to know life.
Here we have a difference. Life is one thing, and the manifestation of gifts is another. We do realize that the proper manifestation of the gifts is for life. However, the manifestation of gifts is not life itself. Life is Christ, and the growth of life is the increase and expanding of Christ. The Corinthian believers at that time cared the most for speaking in tongues, but in chapter 3 Paul told them that they were not only childish but were even infants (v. 1). They spoke in tongues the most, yet they were infants because they were distracted by speaking in tongues. The proper use of speaking in tongues is to be a help for life, but the Corinthians were distracted by this matter, so they were frustrated from knowing Christ as their life.
Knowledge is not life and neither are gifts. Any kind of gift is not life, because life is simply Christ Himself. Therefore, the growth of life is the increase of Christ. It is not the manifestation of any kind of gift. To speak in tongues and to heal people miraculously are the manifestations of gifts. These are for life, but they are not life itself.
THE INCREASE OF POWER
There is also a difference between the growth of life and the increase of power. Samson was very powerful, but what did he have—life or mere power? Sometimes people say that Peter was also powerful. Often, though, I consider that Peter was not as powerful as Samson. Peter was powerful in a different realm, in a different way. Samson had genuine power from God, but that power was not life. We cannot see much life in the record of Samson.
Today most Christians do not differentiate power from life. In a sense, someone may even have a kind of spiritual power but still be very short of life. Power must be for life, but people today mistake power for life. A powerful person may not be full of life. We have to differentiate these two. Power is for life, but power is not life. Regardless of how much increase of power we have, we may still be poor in the growth of life. For the growth of life there is the need of the work of the cross, but for power in itself there is not such a need.
What then is life? Again I say, life is Christ Himself, and the real growth of life is the increase and expanding of Christ. How can we have the expanding of Christ? There is no other way but to always open ourselves to the Lord and contact Him, not only once a day but all the time, daily, every day. We have to open ourselves to Him and let Him come in. Therefore, we should forget about behavior, the form of godliness, zeal in service, knowledge, gifts, and power. Simply pay attention to one thing, that is, to Christ, to open ourselves to Him, contact Him, breathe Him in, feed on Him, and drink of Him. Then we will have not merely the improvement of behavior but transformation. We will have not merely the form of godliness but the reality of godliness. God has the appearance of a precious stone, like jasper, so we too will have the appearance of jasper (Rev. 4:3; 21:11). We will be transformed into the very image of God, not in form only but in reality.
Then to be sure, the more we feed on Christ and breathe Him in, the more we will be burned and will be burning; we will have the real zeal within. We will also have the real knowledge, not the knowledge in the soul but the real knowledge of Christ in the spirit. We will have the experience rather than mere knowledge. We will know Christ not merely by reading and listening but by experiencing Him. We also will have not the mere manifestation of the gifts but the function of life. The function of life comes out of the growth of life. The more we feed on the Lord, the more we take Him in, and the more we grow in Him, the more our function in life will come into being. Then we will have the power in life, the indwelling Christ as the real power, just as 1 Corinthians 1:24 says that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
In order to know and experience the inner life more and more, we need to learn to differentiate all these things. We should forget about everything but life and learn to do only one thing: open ourselves to Christ, take Him as the tree of life, feed on Him, drink of Him, and breathe Him in more and more. This produces the genuine growth of life.
(Dealing with Our Inward Parts for the Growth in Life, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)